my boss wants me to fix his mother’s computer issues, my coworker is competing with me for a Ph.D. spot, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss keeps telling me to fix his mother’s computer issues

I’m a tech support technician for a small ISP business. My boss (the company owner) has me answering calls from his mother almost every day. She calls in about everything from hardware to software. She even brought her computers in on a Friday from 3 hours away for me to work on. My boss demanded I get everything fixed before she left on Sunday, even if it meant missing church (I don’t work Sundays). When she calls in, it takes at least 45 minutes to fix all her problems, taking time away from helping actual clients. Am I required to help his mother, even if she is not a client?

Yes. Your boss is basically telling you that she is a client; whether a particular client pays or not is up to him.

Treat her as you would a client. If doing work for her interferes with your work for other clients, raise that with your boss — not as a complaint, but to find out how he’d like you to handle it. So it’s not “your mom is taking up too much of my time” but rather, “I’d need about three hours to fix the problems on your mom’s computer, but if I do that today, I won’t be able to finish X or Y for other clients who are expecting resolutions today. How would you like me to prioritize?”

It’s also reasonable to say, “I’m glad to put in overtime if you need me to, but I’m unavailable on Sundays for religious reasons” or “I’m not available until 1 p.m. on Sunday” or “I’m not available this weekend because of prior commitments” or whatever the case is.

2. I’m livid that my coworker is applying for the same niche Ph.D. program as I am

I have been interested in pursuing a niche career in Alaska for the last 8 years. I have a B.S. and M.S. in the discipline and am in the process of applying for a Ph.D. to better my chances of employment. I told a coworker about a Ph.D. opportunity that I would like to pursue. Initially, he was supportive. Recently, however, this friend declared that he too would like to apply for the same Ph.D. opportunity with the same academic advisor. This friend has the exact academic qualifications as I do, except I have more work experience and a stronger undergraduate GPA. The Ph.D. program will only accept one of us with funding. I am livid—should I be? Do you have any suggestions on what I should do?

I can understand why you’re upset — he’s basically saying “I’m going after something which, if I get it, will prevent you from getting the thing you want … and I’m using info you shared with me to do it.” That said, there’s no calling dibs on stuff like this — if he wants to apply, he shouldn’t be locked out just because you got there first. So “livid” feels like an overreaction, but I can understand why you’re bothered.

3. Should I remind my manager of upcoming training sessions that she might have forgotten about?

I’ve recently started working at a new company, and when I started my boss recommended that I sign up for two upcoming training sessions in March. The training sessions aren’t on my usual days of work and as a result they’d have to be listed as overtime hours on my time sheet. Typically, we aren’t supposed to work overtime unless we have express permission from her. Because I signed up for these sessions almost two months ago, do I need to remind her about them?

I’m a bit worried that she’ll be shocked when she sees them on my timesheet, because what if she’s forgotten about them? She’s quite busy, so I’m not sure if she’d even remember telling me to go to these sessions. Or is it best to just go to my training sessions and put them on my timesheet and not even ask about it again?

This seems like it should be simple, but I’ve never worked anywhere that had huge training sessions like this available to employees, so I’m just not sure what is the right thing to do and what is the etiquette around it.

As an across-the-board rule, if you think your manager might be shocked by something if you don’t remind her, you should remind her. Otherwise you’re setting both of you up for a bad situation. So yes, absolutely remind her! Say this: “When I started, you asked me to sign up for training sessions on X and Y. They’re coming up this month, and they’re on days I don’t normally work. Should I list them as overtime hours on my timesheet, cut back on other hours that week so I don’t go into overtime, or something else?”

4. Company won’t give me the names of the people I’ll be interviewing with

I have an interview next week for which I am flying in (including an overnight stay). I emailed the HR assistant to ask for the schedule and names of people I will be meeting. She responded by saying that I’m scheduled for 5 hours, with 2 people per hour from various depts and a small lunch break. She also said that she couldn’t provide more info as knowing the names of people wouldn’t be useful without knowing who they are.

Of course, the purpose of getting the names is so I can google them and be more prepared. But I’m not sure if she understands that, so should I respond and explain? Or should I go higher and ask the senior recruiter for the info? Though I suspect she’ll send me to the assistant for the info anyway, as she did the scheduling. What’s the best way to respond? I don’t want to be a pest.

I’d drop it. It’s not essential information — although I agree it’s nice to have — and she already declined to provide it when you asked. Pushing back or going over her head is more likely to annoy them than help you.

5. How should I respond to internal recruiters reaching out on LinkedIn?

Recently, I’ve been getting a number of LinkedIn InMails from internal HR recruiters inviting me to apply for positions which match my experience. They are perfect for me and I am looking for a new job. How do I follow up exactly? Being contacted as a passive candidate leads me to think that I’m a shoo-in for an interview. Is the ball in my court to suggest chatting about the position over the phone/hint at being open to an interview?

I wouldn’t read it as you’re a shoo-in for an interview; once you talk with each other, it might turn out that you’re not a perfect fit. These are more like preliminary conversations to find out more. I’d just respond back and say that you’re interested in learning more and ask if there’s a good time to talk or what the right next step would be; they should take it from there.

{ 168 comments… read them below }

  1. UKAnon*

    #2 – I understand your frustration, but please also remember that somebody else you don’t know might have got onto the programme. You weren’t guaranteed a place until your co-worker came along. All this means is that now you know at least one other person who is applying for it.

    1. MK*

      Yes, this stuck out to me

      “The Ph.D. program will only accept one of us with funding”

      Presumably the program will accept only one person with funding; it may well be neither the OP or their coworker.

      1. JB*

        That’s true, but I don’t see anything to indicate that the OP isn’t aware of that. I think the OP is mad because this coworker didn’t even know about the program until the OP said they were going to apply for it, and now it’s one more person the OP has to compete with. I’d be pretty pissed if this happened to me. That said, I agree that the OP needs to just let it go because it’s not like the OP would have been guaranteed the spot even without the coworker applying.

        And OP, think about it from the coworker’s perspective. “I just found out about this program that I’m really excited about, and I have a decent shot at it, and it’s exactly what I want to do. But I guess I can’t go for it because my coworker who told me about it is also applying. I guess I’ll give up on this dream.” That seems a bit much. So yeah, I can see why you’re bothered by it, but you should also be bothered by the thought that you are expecting someone to give up on something they really want career-wise because you called dibs on taking a stab at getting it.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          The OP should also consider if the situation were reversed: would they have held back from applying for this programme if their coworker had bounced in one morning and told them all about how they had just applied for it? Probably not as it does sound like a fantastic opportunity for the one who gets it. The OP might not have chosen the same academic adviser (I assume, not having done this and thinking that there must be others who could serve in that role). Or, the OP might not have chosen to reveal that they had also applied — which could lead to awkwardness down the road if they were chosen over their coworker or the list of candidates were revealed somehow.

        2. TL -*

          Even if the coworker gets it, it doesn’t mean it’ll be at the expense of the OP, too. The coworker could be a frontrunner while the OP is in the middle of the pack or vice versa – the OP could be offered and if she, say, turns it down, they may not offer it to the coworker next but to someone else entirely.

    2. Artemesia*

      This should teach the OP to keep her mouth shut about cookies when there is only one cookie. I got my first job because someone didn’t keep their mouth shut in a public place. I was intending to call the hiring manager the next day because I had just learned I would be living in the area (my husband had accepted admission to a professional program there rather than elsewhere). I had already been offered the job earlier but couldn’t take it because I didn’t know if we would be staying there. When the woman bragged to several people that she had the X job in the bag and they were going to call her ‘this afternoon’, I immediately called the hiring manager who said ‘I’m glad you called, I was just going to notify someone of that job today. Why don’t you come out to interview with A and B who haven’t met you yet.’ And I did and was offered the job on the spot. It was a field with very very few opportunities; it is by no means clear that I could have found another in that city at that time.

      When you are pursuing something in limited supply don’t make public announcements and don’t count your chickens.

      1. OP #4*

        This one reminds me of applying for college in high school. A classmate mentioned a program she was applying for that was exactly what I wanted to do (but I didn’t know about before). So I applied. And got in. And she didn’t. I felt bad about it for a while, but I did end up going and finding it a valuable experience, and I’m currently working in a similar field now, so it was all worth it? :)

    3. Big10Professor*

      OP, have you met with the academic adviser and all that? If you expressed interest to the AA early on, that will work in your favor. There’s a lot more to an application than GPA and years of experience.

  2. UKJo*

    #2 – definitely understand you feeling miffed. This coworker has not proven themselves much of a friend, if they were uninterested in pursuing this type of opportunity until your investigation flagged someting and they thought “hey, yeah, great – I’d like that!”. (You could argue that a coworker is not there to be a friend to you, fair enough). However, while wishing you good luck it’s entirely possible that neither of you will get it. If that turns out to be the case, and taking into account the whole colleague-not-friend angle, can I recommend treating your colleague with professional-level friendliness only? No more sharing useful opportunities or future plans with them. They can do their own poxy research!

    1. Jen RO*

      Well, I can imagine the other side of the story – “Alison, I just found out about this amazing PhD program! But here’s the deal – the person who told me about it is also applying. This program could be a great boost to my career, but do I owe my coworker anything?”

      1. UKJo*

        Agree, and that’s my point – perhaps the coworker doesn’t owe the OP2, but that means OP2 shouldn’t drop future opportunities into their lap (if they are that serious and interested in PhDs, then they can look for themselves…)

        1. SJP*

          Yea OP 2 – I’d be miffed too. Sadly when you work in a field and your co-workers do something similar.. in future i’d just keep your cards close to your chest and not say anything because of situations like this.
          I hope you knock the ball out the park and make your coworker look very silly.
          As UKJo said, keep this co worker at arms length. Don’t be chilly towards them but don’t be friends with someone like this.. as evidentially they’re not your friend..
          Good luck! Rooting for you

          1. Dan*

            That’s a stretch — the friend certainly hasn’t stabbed the OP in the back with this one, and hasn’t done anything to not be a friend.

        2. MK*

          One point that might reassure the OP is that someone who depends on coworkers casually mentioning an opportunity may not be a very strong candidate anyway.

          The whole “not a friend” I think might depend on how the coworker handled thw whole thing. Were they apologetic/awkward and admitting how bad the OP was likely to feel or were they cavalier about the whole thing?

          1. Tenley*

            Well, no one (I hope) pursues a life change like this on a whim, or with a cavalier attitude about it, and I’m unclear why someone perfectly qualified (as the OP says this person is) should be ashamed for doing so or owes an apology or should feel awkward for doing so. Seriously.

            1. I am now a llama*

              I think MK meant if the coworker was being apologetic to the OP about applying.

              1. fposte*

                But I think Tenley meant that too–that the co-worker doesn’t owe the OP an apology. And I’m inclined to agree. I think it would be nice–and useful–if the co-worker acknowledged that it can be awkward to be up for the same thing as a co-worker, but it happens all the time within a workplace, and I see this as if anything more acceptable. Now, admittedly, there’s a divide around here about whether it’s okay to apply for a position that your friend is applying for, and I’m an “of course it’s okay,” so my thinking here is consistent with that.

                But this isn’t swooping in and taking the last chocolate doughnut after your co-worker said she was going to get it. A PhD program is a big deal commitment for anybody trying to do it, OP or co-worker, and the gatekeepers for it are the admissions committee, not the OP’s workplace. And not only is it possible that neither of them will get it, as noted upthread, it’s also possible that the OP wouldn’t get it whether her co-worker applied or not; I’m therefore disagreeing with Alison’s statement that “if I get it, [it] will prevent you from getting the thing you want,” because that’s not really an inherent correlation here.

                1. MK*

                  I don’t think it happens all that often that someone will apply for an opening after being told by their coworker/friend that they also applied for it. Coworkers/friends independendly applying for the same things, sure, that is common and unavoidable. And while the correlation is not inherent, it’s there as a possibility; and in a niche field, with only a handful of qualifed candiates, it may well turn out that the OP would have gotten the PhD (or the funding), if they hadn’t mentioned it to their coworker.

                  But I didn’t actually mean that the coworker owes the OP an apology; simply that, if they are friends, an acknowledgement that they are doing something that is, no matter how indirectly, against the OP’s intrests (adding to the competition) wouldn’t be amiss. The fact that what you are doing is your right and is not morally wrong in any way doesn’t mean you cannot regret that it has negative consequences for your friends.

                2. fposte*

                  @MK–Sure, I would definitely acknowledge that if I were the OP’s coworker. And maybe the OP’s coworker has done that–the OP doesn’t give any information about what co-worker has done about it save for apply.

                3. Persephone Mulberry*

                  @MK We don’t know that the coworker didn’t frame it as such; the OP didn’t say. If you were super angry about something and hoping people will “take your side”, would you be candid that the other guy said, “hey, I’m really glad you mentioned that PhD grant to me, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for! I just wanted to give you a heads up that I think I’m going to apply for it, too.” Hell, the coworker didn’t HAVE to say anything (how many times has the “went behind my back” letter been submitted?) – maybe he thought he was actually doing the OP a solid by letting him know his plans.

                4. TL -*

                  @MK – but if it’s a small field and/or a lab that’s very, very, very specific and there aren’t that many other concurrent opportunities – e.g.,, you’re interested in studying the physics of chocolate teapots in extreme temperature conditions; there are only two labs in the world that do that, one in Alaska and one in northern Canada – that’s a bit different than, say, applying for the same teapot manufacturing job as a friend, when there’s quite a few companies and positions that do it.

                  Honestly, if the OP is only applying to one Ph.D program, it sounds more like the first scenario.

            2. MK*

              Well, this person apparently either wasn’t searching for a PhD or wasn’t being very diligent about it, if they had to hear of this opportunity by their coworker babbling about their own search. Deciding to apply after hearing about it in such a casual fashion doesn’t scream commitment to me.

              I also hope no one would change their life on a whim (though people have been known to do that), but there are plenty who would apply on a whim; after all, an application is hardly an irrevocable decision.

              1. Persephone Mulberry*

                Wow, this is a HUUUUUGE leap in logic. Just because the coworker hadn’t heard about *this* program doesn’t mean they weren’t researching *any* programs. Also, I doubt the coworker decided to apply on a whim; it’s probably a better bet that the coworker used the interval between hearing about the program and letting the OP know that they were going to apply for it to, you know, research it.

                1. MK*

                  Admitedly no, but I know people who have. Yes, I know it’s a long and difficult process, but does the initial application demand such a huge commitment? In any case, the OP’s coworker hasn’t actually even applied yet, they just mentioned they would like to.

                2. TL -*

                  There’s not really an initial application… there’s the application (which takes a lot of effort) and then the interviews (which generally involve a lot of drinking afterwards).

                3. fposte*

                  There’s also a lot of marshalling of materials–you’ve got to pull together the transcripts, the test scores, the recommendations, etc.–as well as writing personal statements and so on.

            3. Koko*

              I don’t think they’d owe an apology or should be ashamed, but it’s definitely an awkward situation and the socially graceful thing to do would be to address it head-on so nobody stews in silent resentment or discomfort.

              I’m actually just thinking of the recent Parks and Rec episode where both Leslie and Ben are approached on the same night by separate people asking each to run for governor. Because they love each other it’s not a disaster, but they both immediately recognized how awkward it was that if either of them ran, it was against the other one, and that even though they both wanted this only one could have it. (I love how in a typical low-brow sitcom, after Ben told Leslie he’d been approached, Leslie probably would have decided not to tell him she’d been approached to spare them the awkward conversation, and then there’s be a whole contrived plot where she was trying to hide from him that she was running, sneaking around hiding campaign banners or pretending they’re for him instead of her. Instead, they talked it out and worked it out like adults. I’m going to miss this show.)

              1. Cat*

                Yes! My life goal is totally to learn how to handle tricky situations as maturely as Leslie and Ben.

    2. Swedish Tekanna*

      Couldn’t agree more. Work relationship or not, the OP must have considered the coworker to be a friend of sorts or they wouldn’t have shared the information. I must admit I have become quite wary about sharing too many personal plans in the office at least until things are settled. If nothing else, the office politics can be a nightmare. True, the OP doesn’t know how many other people have applied for the programme but this still feels like a kick in the teeth.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Ah yes – office politics. Ugh,

        The other posters here have all made very good points. But I agree with you how it would hurt the OP here because if it is such a niche field then these opportunities are few and far between, and it looks as if s/he has waited 8 years for something like this to come up and now feels betrayed. However, there was a thread recently about how the number of applicants does not equate to “odds” anyway.

    3. Monodon monoceros*

      I dunno…I’ve applied for positions where my friends and I both knew we were applying for the same job and you just realise that happens, and may the best one for the job get chosen. And recently two good friends of mine were both finalists for the same position. They handled it so well, both with a “well, I hope I get it but I’ll be happy for Jane if she gets it.” And when one did get offered the job, the other actually was truly happy for her. I remember being really impressed that they could both be so adult about it.

      I mean, at least he told you about the job. I can see being upset if he ended up getting the position and had not even told you, but sometimes when you have friends with similar interests, these situations are going to come up.

    4. CAinUK*

      OP2 you mention that your co-worker is also submitting an application with the same academic adviser? As someone who has worked with a potential supervisor to draft and submit a PhD proposal – that is a lot of work, and a strong relationship is paramount. The good news: if your co-worker is just listing the same adviser for their application but hasn’t actually worked with that adviser, your co-worker’s application is already weaker (assuming you in fact have at least discussed and met with your potential academic advisor). The adviser can simply say “Well, OP2 has discussed this with me, and I have no idea who OP2’s Co-worker is…” when they weigh in on the funding committee.

      However, if both of you are simply listing a possible adviser but haven’t actually discussed the plans WITH that adviser, you won’t have any additional leverage here and it’s out of your hands :(

      1. blackcat*

        +1 To this advise.

        When I applied for PhD program, the online software *at the school that I am now at* initially ate my application. While I went through a serious panic when I got an email from my (now) advisor saying “It’s fine if you decided not to apply, but I wanted to check since there is a new computer system this year…” having a prior relationship with him saved my butt in the application process. It also meant that there was someone looking for my application immediately. My advisor was exciting to bring me on board because he knew me AND he knew my recommenders well (and one of them spoke to him pretty frequently). Yes, I was qualified and worked hard on my application, but the personal relationships helped. Build those with the advisor and other people in the field within academia.

        Also, if your coworker is just jumping on to this bandwagon now, it’s likely that will come through in his essays in the application. That won’t help him get in.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      But they aren’t friends; they are coworkers. Coworker #2 has no obligation to stand aside just because OP is annoyed and doesn’t want competition (I get it; I’d be somewhat annoyed too but I would also realize that it’s not something to take personally and that I don’t have the sole rights to applying).

  3. SJP*

    OP 4 – Try and see if from the internal point of view, they may still not know if the people they have lined up to interview are available. They may the type who have to jet off at the last minute. Or they’re still not sure who is best to interview yet. Or a whole other reason for doing so.
    I’m an assistant and sometimes my manager or others who I work under ask me specifically not to give names out etc for various reasons. It’s a bit annoying to be on the end of but you have all the other info so just use that for your research and prepare like you usually would just without pushing for the names of who will interview you..
    Good luck

    1. Kathryn*

      We often rework interview panels the day of – people get sick, crises happen, there was a lot of snow recently here in Boston so working up a panel really depended on who was able to make it into the office – googling who was put on the panel when it was scheduled might not actually help you. Prep on the company and on the job rather than pushing for information that has already been denied.

    2. PizzaSquared*

      Most of the companies I’ve worked for have a blanket policy of not releasing this information, and a candidate who pushed hard for it would probably look a little naive. Asking once is ok (though I never even do that), but beyond that, drop it.

    3. JMegan*

      Agreed, and there may not be any useful information on the internet anyway. I have always looked up the people on my interview panel if I knew who they were ahead of time, and tbh I have found next to nothing that could have helped me in the interview.

      OP, what are you hoping to gain from this information? How would it help you in the interview if you knew that Person A on your panel went to University X, and Person B presented at Conference Y three years ago? You want to know about the interests and the activities of the company, of course, but having that info about the individuals on the panel doesn’t really demonstrate any specific interests or aptitude for the job. It might be useful fodder for small talk, or for tailoring a specific answer, but if you head too far in that direction it can come off as sucking up.

      Job interviews are stressful, and I know you want to do everything you can to boost your odds of success. And it can feel a bit unfair when the panel knows more about you than you do about them. But that’s the nature of the beast – and look at it this way, if they’re refusing to give out the information, then everybody is coming in on a level playing field, and you won’t be at any particular disadvantage for not knowing it. Know the job, know why you would be great at the job, and you’ll be fine. Good luck!

      1. Michele*

        Also, if you know too much about the people who will interview you, it comes across as creepy. Someone I interviewed dug up everything he could find about me online, and weirded me out.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          This just reminded me about a talk about interviewing and networking I was required to attend when I was in business school. The presenter proceeded to tell us how he had really impressed people he’d interviewed with or that he met at networking events by throwing out pieces of information he had learned about them online during their conversations. I can’t remember all of them, but one of the examples he gave was about interviewing with someone who was a runner and had done a half marathon as well as several distance runs. After looking up this person on the internet and finding this out, he gleefully told us how he dropped into the conversation that he was also a runner and was impressed with all of the runs/races she had completed. (It also might be useful to note that the job/company he was interviewing for had nothing even peripherally to do with running, so it’s not like this would have somehow been a reasonable link to make based on the company or job itself.)

          I, and several others who attended this presentation, thought this was some of the worst advice we had ever heard. When a few people asked him about it during the Q&A session (one actually using the phrase “a little creepy”) he got really annoyed and essentially told us that we were doing it wrong by not stalking all of our interviewers/fellow event attenders online in advance. Yeah, that’s two hours of my life I want back.

          1. Michele*

            I agree with you. It is one thing to look at the personal items on someone’s desk and ask about them (Oh, are you a runner?), but don’t dig around to find my half marathon times.

            1. JMegan*

              Yes, that’s what I was thinking as well. The information might allow you to make a superficial connection with your interviewer, but a good interviewer won’t base their hiring decisions on whether or not you share their interest in running. So at best, you’ve have some information that might smooth the conversational wheels, but there’s no guarantee of that either. And at worst…yes, it definitely could come off as creepy.

  4. RH*

    OP #2, the situation does seem frustrating. My advice, however, is if you are accepted into the program, develop a thicker skin fast. I am in the midst of a PhD now, and it is not fair or even logical many times. Depending on your program, they can be outright cut-throat.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      Ha, yep. My labmates and I used to joke that “The first rule of grad school is that grad school is not fair.”

    2. Dr J*

      Yep. You’ll think you’re a shoo-in for that Modern History of Chocolate Teapots research grant, since your dissertation is about chocolate teapot manufacture during the world wars; but then they’ll award it to a guy working on medieval silver spoons. Too bad! (Then again, I won a grant for interdisciplinary research on the most tenuous grounds ever, basically “it’s interdisciplinary because Chocolate Teapots and Chocolate Kettles are two different things!”, and there’s probably someone out there doing genuinely interdisciplinary work who hates me for it — so swings and roundabouts.)

      When you go to conferences your most rewarding moments will be meeting the people working on things most similar to your projects. Of course those are the people who will be applying to the same things you’re applying for, and it’s tempting to fret over which of you is the better candidate. If you do, you’ll reap a boatload of negative emotions and anxiety, and possibly miss out on a rewarding professional connection. Maybe it’s time to start practicing gracious, constructive positivity now.

    3. Artemesia*

      I have watched students in grad programs angry and mystified that some students were ‘favored’ or got opportunities that they didn’t. Well, yeah — the cream floats very quickly and the process is very competitive. There are not nearly enough top jobs for PhDs and the ones who will succeed are the ones who are spotted as promising and ‘favored’ and snapped up by top researchers for top projects. Sometimes it is ‘unfair’ as in sexist or racist — but mostly it is about identifying talent which is not evenly distributed.

  5. Cheesecake*

    A little off-topic. What kind of careers absolutely require PhD? Only academia came to my mind. What about business ones?

    1. UKJo*

      Being a professional editor often requires a PhD, especially if it is an editor who will handle the peer review process. Just another example.

      1. fposte*

        In the US, that would be only academic editors, though. Trade editors are unlikely to have PhDs.

      2. insert pun here*

        this is true of many (if not all) academic journals, but not for books, even academic/STEM publishing. In many cases it’s a preferred credential, but never required.

      1. OhNo*

        That’s what popped into my mind to – possibly something geology-related or environment-related. Either oil or conservation would be my first thought if it’s in Alaska, and both seem to look highly on PhDs (as far as I know).

        1. mh_ccl*

          I’m in Alaska and spent many years working at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I’m having a hard time imagining what sort of job up here would require a PhD when the program seems to have such limited availability. For example, UAF had an Institute of Northern Engineering, which specilaized in engineeering for arctic environments. But it was a large department with many, many students. OP, can you explain why you need to attend that program (and only that program) in order to perform your work in Alaska?

    2. Lily in NYC*

      In my firm, a PhD is required for our economic researchers. Probably lots of research positions require them.

    3. Rye-Ann*

      It sort of depends. In sciency-type fields, it’s totally possible to get a job without a Ph.D, but you will probably never be a manager unless you have one.

    4. MK*

      It’s not always a case of “absolutely requires”, but of “you won’t get very far without one”. In my sister’s field, it’s not required, but so many people have them that you come across as underqualified without one (actual competence aside).

    5. themmases*

      In epidemiology (my field) an MS or MPH is the entry-level degree for most jobs and you have a lot more options with a PhD or DrPH. That’s the case in public health practice as well as in academia. Also, academia isn’t all research. There’s market research, consulting and contract research, pharmaceutical and other types of industry research, disease surveillance, program evaluation… Academic institutions might be involved in all of these but they’re not the only ones. PhDs might also work in NGOs where they do a mix of research and practice.

      I got the impression that the OP works in an area at least somewhat related to their training– otherwise it would be a pretty big coincidence for them to have a coworker with the same background who also now wants a PhD. So I assumed from reading the letter that they also work in an area where nearly everyone has a masters and a doctorate can take you even farther.

    6. Omne*

      Sometimes it can be a licensing issue. For example in my state you have to have a PhD in order to become a licensed psychologist.

  6. Swedish Tekanna*

    OP4 – The interviewers’ names aren’t worth getting too worked up about. If I have them, I google them, check them out on LinkedIn, and so on. But half the time in my experience the interviewer(s) turns out to be someone else entirely.

    1. ABC*

      So true. Respond and just see where it goes like any other application.

      On a side note…its “shoo-in”

    2. Sunflower*

      I agree it’s not worth getting worked up about. It’s nice to have but any info I find about that person isn’t particularly helpful. I might see how long they’ve worked for the company or where else they’ve worked but that doesn’t really benefit me in anyway? And you always run the risk of freaking the person out if you find too much information online

    3. Dan*

      Yeah… if I’m on an interview panel, knowing anything about me isn’t going to help you that much. First, I’m somewhat google proof, and even then, you’d have to know how my background ties into my current work, which is easier said than done. You’re better off focusing on my department and the work that we support. (Good luck even finding that out, we run a large program for the feds but our name isn’t on anything)

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Exactly. Simply prepare as best you can for the interview, research the company, and anticipate questions they might ask you. Most of the interviewers would probably ask the same questions anyway, so it doesn’t much matter who they are.

      For my reference and for thank you/follow-up emails, I like to make sure I know who I interviewed with, so I usually got that information after we talked, not before.

  7. I'm a Little Teapot*

    OP 1 – Is your boss paying you to fix his mother’s computer? I had a boss, years ago, who asked me to do a project and told me after it was done that it was a favor to a friend of his so it wasn’t paid. I pushed back, but this should have been a sign. Two months later, with almost no pay and vague promises that I’d get more money someday, I quit without notice and without another job lined up. I regret not getting anything in writing from this guy so I could pursue legal action.

    (I also had a landlord who’d barge into my apartment at midnight to demand I fix his computer right now. But that’s another story.)

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          I simply refused and told him I needed to go to bed so I could work the next day; he got very huffy but eventually left. He also told me to fix his TV set one day; I explained that a) I had no idea how and b) the innards of a CRT set can be up to 25,000 volts and I was NOT going to risk electrocuting myself. Again, he got huffy, but backed off. (Really, how dare I value my life over him getting free repair services. Yes, of course, he expected me to fix things for free.)

          One day I came home from work to find that my computer, which had been off when I left, was on, and someone had been using it. I went upstairs to Jerkface Landlord’s part of the house and demanded to know what the hell was going on. He said, as if it were the most normal thing ever, that his friend (whom I’d never met) had been over and he’d let the friend use my computer so he could fix the wireless network. I yelled a whole lot about how he’d not only let some stranger into my apartment but into my private information, and he seemed completely mystified by the idea that there was anything wrong with this. Then, I established a password (this was long ago and I had Windows 98).

          In retrospect, all the books on this guy’s shelves about “Multiple Streams of Income” and how to make money fast and other titles that sounded like spam subject lines should have been a red flag with “cheap, greedy, and shameless” written on it in 20-foot letters. And if someone tried to pull that crap on me now there would be legal consequences (and perhaps the guy’s name, which I have sadly now forgotten, all over the Internet). But I was 23, living in a small town with no car, and his place was the only apartment I could find and afford within walking distance of my job, so I was pretty much stuck. He was only one of a string of scummy landlords and scummy employers my first couple years out of college, and the whole experience left me with a deep cynicism and an automatic distrust of anyone who owns a business or property that I’ve never gotten over ten years later.

      1. Chinook*

        I would have dealt with the landlord barging in at midnight by calling the cops. really – there is no reason to do this unless something is on fire or there have been loud screams or thuds coming from inside my place.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      Yes, landlords generally need to give 24 hours notice before entering a tenant’s apartment on legitimate housing business…not to mention for something as irrelevant as computer issues.

    1. Loose Seal*

      Maybe it’s tongue-in-cheek. Like you’re a shoe-in because you got a foot in the door.

  8. Richard*

    #4 – Sometimes the people for an interview get switched out at the last minute, which leaves a recruiter feeling embarrassed if they told you otherwise. Other times, the recruiter isn’t that connected with the organization, and they don’t have a clue who anyone is except the hiring manager or, occasionally, the office manager, who’ll book the room.

    Depending on the industry, company, location, and position, you may still be able to do at least some research. If you’re meeting with three levels of hierarchy, there’s only so many people at the higher level at most companies. Also, if your profile is on LinkedIn, you may notice who’s been searching you from that company.

    #5 – Depends a lot on the recruiter and the position. At least, it probably means that the recruiter thinks your resume will pass their buzzword check and won’t embarrass them when they pass it on to the next level.

    In both cases – In these days of cost-cutting, many large companies have cut back on recruiters, which greatly restricts how much any given recruiter knows about any given position or manager. Meanwhile, the recruiters have many people yelling at them to get more resumes for them, while at the same time, yelling at them for not screening them. Meanwhile, people trying to get hired are asking for more information, which the recruiter doesn’t have time to hunt down. It’s not a very comfortable place to be, so have some sympathy for them, if you can.

    I’m one of those hiring managers who’s trying not to yell at the poor overworked recruiters, since I can’t seem to get good resumes fast enough.

  9. Dew E. Decimal*

    #4 – I haven’t interviewed for a position in a long time (but would like to!) so it was before LinkedIn and when I was really new to the work world. I wouldn’t know what to do really with that information now! I would be worried it would look weird if I creeped them on LinkedIn (I’d just assume they have that premium account thing and could see that, because I’m paranoid) and otherwise I’m not sure what I could find out that prepare me better than just generally preparing to rock the interview. I’m an information junkie so I would get wanting to know, but that almost seems like too much information to try and parse and game my answers around.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      I agree about creeping people, but I have my search settings set to anonymous so I can look recruiters etc up without them getting the heads-up.

    2. Zillah*

      You actually don’t need a premium account to see recent visitors to your profile – being set for anonymous searches is really the only thing that prevents that on either side.

      1. Dew E. Decimal*

        Good to know! If you have your own account set to see if anyone looks at you, that would open you up to being visible by other people, right? As in you can’t have it both ways?

        1. Judy*

          Well, you can switch it back and forth. So you can turn it off for a few hours to do some searching, and then turn it back on, I think.

          1. Kate*

            If you switch the setting from anonymous to visible, your profile/name will become accessible to the people you viewed anonymously, even if it showed up as “linkedin user” initially.

            The only way to prevent that is to set your profile to anonymous and leave it that way (unless you make a different “dummy” account, which I don’t believe is technically permitted under the linkedin TOS).

            1. Beezus*

              You can usually see education and employment history if you are not logged in and use a search engine to find the person’s profile. I do this occasionally to find out what someone’s been up to, even if I don’t want to connect with them.

    3. Sunflower*

      Even with a basic account, you can set your settings to more private so people can’t see if you viewed their profile. However, I wouldn’t think it’s weird or creepy if someone I was interviewing looked at my LinkedIn. I don’t really care if people know I looked at their profile- it’s when you start looking at someone’s profile a lot that is creepy. I feel the same as you that I love having information but it’s definitely important to keep parts of it to yourself. If you start throwing out things like ‘I saw you were in X club in college’…yeah that’s definitely weird.

      1. Michele*

        Same here. It is common for people that I interview to look me up on Linked in. However, when people delve too deeply, that is creepy.

    4. HR Pro*

      It is becoming more and more understood that interviewees will look up the interviewer on LinkedIn before the interview. In fact, recently when a recruiter/headhunter found a place for me to interview, she instructed me to look the interviewers up on LinkedIn before the interview. There are more and more interviewers who might even think it’s a problem if you DIDN’T look them up on LinkedIn ahead of time. (OK, maybe we’re not there yet, but I definitely know a few interviewers who think that, and I bet there will be more in the future.)

  10. Oryx*

    “The Ph.D. program will only accept one of us with funding.”

    I’m assuming that means the program will only accept one of everybody who applies, yes? So, it’s not as if OP #2 is only competing against her co-worker, she’s competing against everybody who applies to the position. That fact that one of those people happens to be her co-worker is really kind of moot.

    1. Xarcady*

      Well, it could be that there is funding for one student. Other students may be accepted into the program, but will have to pay their own way and/or take out loans. That’s the way it was when I was in grad school–the program size was to some extent limited by the number of Teaching Assistantships available, but if you were accepted and wanted to pay the full tuition, you were free to do so. The general economics of attending grad school full-time meant that very, very few people could attend without a TA, but it was known to happen.

      1. fposte*

        I think Oryx’s point is that it’s not just between the OP and her co-worker, though; it’s between the OP, her co-worker, and the 45 other applicants, who also have a likelihood of beating the OP out for the fellowship, but the OP is mistakenly thinking of it as just her vs. her co-worker.

      2. Oryx*

        No, that I get. My grad school was paid for by an assistantship, some of my classmates were not as lucky.

        My point was that if that’s the case, it’s not just the OP v. Co-worker. It’s OP v. Everybody else who applied. The OP seems narrowly focused on the idea that her co-worker has someone ruined the chance of possibly getting funding, as if it was just the two of them applying.

      3. TL -*

        Depends on the field. STEM people don’t/shouldn’t pay for grad school. (maybe not the M part? Not sure…) and generally won’t be offered positions without funding.

        1. AcademicAnon*

          Often for professional masters you pay for it. Professional meaning there are field, intern, or other assignments linked to that field that you must accomplish for the degree. Pure research masters or PhDs often the students don’t pay for them. However it’s starting to shift that the universities make someone else pay for them instead of absorbing some or all of the “tuition”, either the advisors themselves or through the student’s getting their own grants or fellowships.

    2. themmases*

      I don’t think we can necessarily say that from this letter.

      In some fields it’s common for a student to join a grant or lab run by their advisor and for that to be the source of their funding. In that case it wouldn’t mean that this program only admits one person per year or even that they only give funding to one person per year. It would just mean that the person OP wants to work with only has money to hire one trainee this year. Other faculty members or projects could control other funding that is available to admitted students if they have research interests in common– maybe the OP should look around.

      1. TL -*

        Right. If you don’t have the money to pay for the person’s living, you probably can’t afford to have them in the lab if they do a lot of benchwork. So no funding=no graduate students.

  11. Kat M*

    Public Service Announcement: It’s shoo-in. As in, they simply shoo you into the role. Shoe-in is not a thing.

    1. jhhj*

      And, though this isn’t relevant to this post specifically, it’s yea or nay, not yay or nay.

    2. Dr. Doll*

      Also it’s uninterested, not disinterested, if you’re bored. And it’s flouting, not flaunting, if you’re cheerfully ignoring a rule!

      Thanks for the opportunity, Kat! ;-)

    3. JoAnna*

      Also, know the difference between pique/peek/peak. If you’re intrigued by something, it has piqued your interest (or you’ve been annoyed/offended by something and are in a fit of pique). “Peek” means to glance quickly, and “peak” is the highest point of a mountain.

      Just FYI. :)

    4. LisaS*

      And if you’re going to end with “And in conclusion…” you shouldn’t rely on spellcheck to pick up on the fact that you’ve typed “And in concussion…”

    5. jhhj*

      Wary and leery are more or less synonymous. Weary, despite being a sort of average of the way the other two sound, means something very different.

        1. SaintPaulGal*

          This one drives me absolutely bonkers! It’s terribly widespread, and I die a little inside each and every time I hear it. I have to bite back the urge to yell, “DON’T YOU REALIZE YOU ARE SAYING THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU MEAN?!?!”

          1. fposte*

            Yes, we do. Because it’s a figure of speech, which doesn’t draw its power from literality. Don’t go all heels over head about it :-).

    6. HannahS*

      To “eke” means you just managed to complete something, having barely enough resources. “Eek!” is what you say when you see a horrible drain-bug-centipede-too-many-legs-things scurrying around the pantry.

    7. The Cosmic Avenger*

      As long as we’ve started a grammar/spelling peeves thread, it takes me considerable effort NOT to wince if someone says “ATM machine”, “PIN number”, “nucular”, or “foilage”.

    8. oranges & lemons*

      straitjacket; strait-laced; in dire straits
      nip it in the bud
      for all intents and purposes
      begging the question

      I feel better now

    9. Puffle*

      I know I’m late to the party, but while we’re at it, it’s “toe the line”, not “tow the line”…

  12. Allison*

    5. I’m part of an internal recruitment team, and I do message people on LinkedIn only to have someone deem them not a fit later on in the process. Their profile may have the qualifications on it, or if it’s a vague profile, it might indicate that the person has the skills we need, but in the phone screen we may find out that they’re not very enthusiastic about the job we’re filling, or the hiring manager may decide their skills aren’t strong enough during their talk with the candidate. We normally do a recruiter screen and hiring manager screen before actually bringing someone in for an interview, but other companies may bring in people for interviews faster.

  13. Graciosa*

    #2 – I’m probably a little less sympathetic than Alison was on this one. Applying for something doesn’t give you any rights to it. I would recommend you aspire to the same level of maturity as the friends of Monodon Monoceros and handle this with less anger and more grace.

    #3 – Please use your words. Learning this will make your work life much easier for many years to come. Most bosses are relatively human, and appreciative of information that helps them do their jobs.

    #4 – Your questions seem to indicate that you think there is a possibility that the assistant just does not understand, or that her actions may not be consistent with what higher level employees in the organization would want.

    My advice is to always assume that it is absolutely impossible that any assistant is doing anything other than exactly what his or her boss wants until you have incontrovertible proof to the contrary. Once the assistant is fired, you can assume a disconnect, but it’s pretty rare for anything short of that.

    An assistant may be the most highly trusted member of the boss’ staff, regardless of pay rate. Do not annoy the assistant. Do not treat an assistant with anything other than the greatest courtesy and respect. Do not ever, ever, ever start thinking that an assistant is “just” an assistant and doesn’t understand.

    It’s a little funny in some ways, but I rarely see top executives get into trouble with this – they know that the assistants wield enormous power – but I do see lower level employees hurt their careers by making mistakes in how they treat the assistants. Do not be one of them. You may not realize that this is why you didn’t get the job or were passed over for a promotion, but a word in the boss’ ear from a trusted source has more power than you realize. Make sure that word is a good one.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I think OP 4 doesn’t mean it is a “assistants don’t understand things” way. Maybe OP was confused by this piece of her reply: “knowing the names of people wouldn’t be useful without knowing who they are.” If she just said “sorry, at this point we don’t have all interviewers confirmed” it would be easier to swallow. Otherwise my initial response *in my head only* was “well, why don’t you give me their names and positions”? But i wouldn’t spend time trying to get these names, it is not a deal breaker and going extra mile trying to find the names seems extra nosy.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Considering the OP said “But I’m not sure if she understands that [I want to Google them], so should I respond and explain,” I think that’s exactly how they meant it. Graciosa is 100% on point with this one.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      Re: #4 I agree with you so much, good admin staff are worth their weight in gold and it never does to upset them or try and run round them.

      1. SJP*

        Graciosa is spot on – “they know that the assistants wield enormous power – but I do see lower level employees hurt their careers by making mistakes in how they treat the assistants. Do not be one of them. You may not realize that this is why you didn’t get the job or were passed over for a promotion, but a word in the boss’ ear from a trusted source has more power than you realize. Make sure that word is a good one.”

        I am an assistant and have made people come into interviews and been rude etc before they realise that I am an assistant of who they’re seeing. They’ve been rude, snobbish and dismissive of me. Either before or after I’ll let my boss know how they were to me because often that is a big indicator of how they really are, not just a fake interview front.
        Everyone should treat people above and below them the same, and thats with courtesy.
        It’s like I read online a recruiter get shoved out the way and told to F off by a rude guy on the way to the subway only for that guy to then turn up at his office for an interview. With him.
        I bet that guy wanted the ground to open up and swallow him..

        1. Not Here or There*

          It absolutely boggles my mind that someone would be rude to anyone in a company that they’re interviewing with. It seems like simple common sense that if you’re interviewing with a company you would go out of your way to be nice to everyone in that company, whether it’s a potential co-worker, assistant or janitor. Same if you’re trying to sell something to that company.

          While I’ve never dealt with a rude interviewee (at least none that have been intentionally rude to me), I have dealt with some very rude sales people. The thing with sales people is… if you’re rude to me, there is no way in heck my boss will ever hear about you. If the product is something that my boss is specifically looking for, I will go out of my way to make sure that anyone the boss meets with is not the person who was rude to me.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Heh, I saw that article too.

          When I was a receptionist, I would sometimes put a sticky note on people’s applications if they were really rude, gross, or even if they were exceptionally polite or well put together.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Yes, this, absolutely. If the OP emails the same question to the senior person, chances are good that the assistant will see that email one way or another, and then she’ll know that the OP is trying to get around her. Personally, I find few things more irritating than someone who tried to circumvent the process or go about things in a sneaky way, and chances are good that’s how the assistant would see this ploy.

      If you get off on the wrong foot with an assistant, you’ve put yourself at a serious disadvantage. Not only have you rubbed a person in a position of influence the wrong way, but that person is usually hooked into one or more internal networks that can be really helpful. At my company, all the assistants meet to discuss things that they will all be a part of: like planning for a high-profile client meeting, or an upcoming visit from one of the parent company’s big executives, or setting up a big offsite event that requires a lot of coordination on travel, dates, and so on. And I also know that they exchange gossip and information too (as all good assistants do). So if you step on the wrong toes, it really have a ripple effect.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I don’t really get irritated if someone emails my boss in an attempt to get around me, but I can guarantee that my boss will read about a sentence and a half of it before forwarding it to me to deal with, anyway. So all they’ve really accomplished is contacting me twice.

  14. JustMe*

    #2- Personally, I don’t consider people on the same team as me my friends. I am friendly with them. Once I leave the company, I don’t expect to hang out with them. I would like to, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Most will be friendly with you until it comes to keeping a job. It is pretty cutthroat. OP, I would use this as a lesson learned; if it’s something you have been waiting for so many years, keep it to yourself until it comes to fruition. I hope you get in the program.

  15. badger_doc*

    Re: #4 At the company I work for, we are discouraged from giving out our contact information or business cards on recruiting events because of the number of emails we would get from potential candidates. That could be a reason they are not providing you with that information–they might be protecting their employee’s contact information. I wouldn’t think anything about it. I understand it would be nice to know so you can try to build rapport–for example, if you find out from LinkedIn that one of your interviewers was really into parasailing and you are too. But try not to read too much into it. It’s like knowing how many people they are interviewing–it won’t help your chances any by knowing the names in advance.

  16. AW*

    She also said that she couldn’t provide more info

    LW#2: I think the wording here is important. She didn’t say, “Eh, you don’t need it”, she said she *couldn’t* provide it. So either they aren’t sure who will do the interview as has been suggested or she’s actually been told not to give out names. Believe the assistant when they say that can’t do something.

  17. AW*

    The Ph.D. program will only accept one of us with funding.

    Obviously LW#2 knows better now, but that’s a really good reason to keep this sort of thing close to the chest. I’m poorly paraphrasing the Yarn Harlot here but you don’t tell your fellow knitter friends about a yarn sale until after you’ve done your shopping first.

    A PhD program isn’t something to enter into lightly (or at least it shouldn’t be) so the co-worker was likely already planning on pursuing one before you told them about this program. Since your specialty is a niche, he probably would/will end up applying at the same schools anyway. So you were probably always in competition, you just know about it now.

    Of course, that’s assuming that when he said he’d like to apply that he meant this year. If he really wasn’t considering a PhD until you said something, he may not even be planning on getting into a program this year. Or he may have said it in a “That would be a cool thing to do” sort of way, not a “I’m definitely doing this now” sort of way. Of course, you’re the one who had the conversation with him so maybe how he meant it was clear at the time.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      This is good advice for academia. Be extremely careful in sharing ideas, funding opportunities, job openings, etc. You really can’t trust your peers not to scoop!

    2. Merry and Bright*

      That is very fair and good advice.

      In addition, even if the OP’s coworker does mean to apply for the programme now, at least he has been honest about it with the OP. The OP might have been even more livid (to use his own word) if he had found out further down the road, as in “Hi Alison, my coworker has taken my information and applied for my programme behind my back”!

    3. Sunflower*

      I’d stress this really in any job situation. I have a friend with very similar qualifications, looking at similar jobs that I am. We make it a rule to not talk about jobs we apply to. We only share job information if we find something the other would be interested in but we ourselves are not. It just makes it easier that way. She actually was offered a job I also applied for. I was happy for her but if I had known throughout the process we were both in the running, I could see it possibly working it’s way into our personal relationship. Just keep it as vague as you can.

    4. Zillah*

      Obviously LW#2 knows better now, but that’s a really good reason to keep this sort of thing close to the chest. I’m poorly paraphrasing the Yarn Harlot here but you don’t tell your fellow knitter friends about a yarn sale until after you’ve done your shopping first.

      Yep. I mentioned this recently, I think, but when I graduated from library science school I only mentioned AAM to people who weren’t going to be job-searching in the same area as me. I still feel a little bad about that, but it’s a competitive field – I don’t need to give my competition tools to get a job that I want.

    5. SouthernBelle*

      Slightly off topic, but I’m super grateful for your mention of the Yarn Harlot… Now I have a new blog to follow!

  18. Allison*

    For #4, I don’t know if it’s necessary to research the people you’ll be interviewing with. There is one name you need to know and that’s the person you need to ask for when you come into the office and talk to the person at the front desk. “Hi, I’m here for ____.”

    It is weird that she refused to give them out simply because she didn’t think the names were useful. Clearly, you think they are, so I wonder if she has another reason and is giving you the ol’ “you don’t need to know that” excuse.

  19. AW*

    LW#1 – If your boss would be amenable to the suggestion (and it kind of sounds like they wouldn’t), maybe the mom could get some kind of computer training? Libraries offer that sort of thing for free but if you’re having to spend almost an hour daily helping her anyway, maybe you could do it. Obviously don’t volunteer for this if you think the boss will try to make you do this for free on your own time.

  20. MegT*

    OP #2: I empathize with your situation very much, and I totally understand how you would be very frustrated. However, as an aside, I would encourage you to really do your research when it comes to the post-Ph.D. job market. Perhaps you’re in a field where a Ph.D. in that niche is the only means of entry (some earlier posters mentioned oil, engineering, etc.), in which case you can disregard my advice, but I made this error when I was applying to Ph.D. programs. I assumed that a Ph.D. (because it requires dedication and so much additional time in school) would guarantee better job prospects in the future. In reality, however, that has been far, far from the case for me. I don’t say this to scare you or to in any way deter you from a Ph.D. program (and in fact, several people tried to tell me not to pursue mine but I ignored them), but to be aware of the current reality in your field. And as I said before, maybe this isn’t the case for your niche field at all… but it’s worth considering before putting in all that work both applying and attending school for a Ph.D. Good luck!

  21. Artemesia*

    I think if the boss wants you to fix mom’s computer during normal work hours that is one thing, but it is totally outrageous that he wants the OP to work Sunday to fix Mom’s computer. This is incredibly abusive behavior of an employee and is the OP’s clue to find a job in a more professional setting. And to have other plans on the weekend; ‘I am sorry but that isn’t going to be possible as I have plans and won’t be able to work on Sunday.’

  22. BadPlanning*

    On OP1 — One positive way to see this is if the Mother sees you as an awesome employee who is always polite and fixes her computer problems and is great, it may be great job security and benefit to you. Of course, not everyone is ready to acknowledge good work and share it — if she’s asking for help all the time and then is rude about it, that’s going to be rough. Not saying you should work Sunday morning to curry favor with the Mother — just that there could be advantages in general if the Mother appreciates your work.

  23. Anonymous Educator*

    For #1, was there any indication, when you were hired, that supporting your boss’s mother’s computer would be part of the job? Just curious.

    It is a bit weird that you’re being asked to support her so often, but Alison is right that if that’s part of the job, she’s technically a client. If I were your boss, I don’t know that I’d want to be wasting you on my mother instead of on supporting clients that will actually help the business, but that’s his choice.

    It’s more concerning to me that you’re missing out on your weekends and personal responsibilities. Is that fairly typical where you work, to have to work on the weekends, too?

    I don’t know. This might be one of those things where you can bring it up and protest a bit, but if your boss doesn’t budge on it, you either suck it up… or you look for another job.

    At my last job, I was supporting my boss’s whole family (boss, spouse, child) for all sorts of personal tech needs. It was a bit strange, but it was just part of the job. I’m glad now not to be doing that.

  24. Ben Around*

    OP #1: Since you write about the demand to do frequent IT work for your boss’s mom, I have to wonder whether this means you’re working extra hours for no extra pay — as if you’re being loaned to mom the way someone would loan a tool, with no warning that your unpaid work time is being extended. Is that the case?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s unclear if OP#1 is working exempt or non-exempt. If exempt, there’s no extra pay or overtime for working on the weekends.

      1. Ben Around*

        Sure, that’s well-known. I think it’s a big distinction, though, in whether or not the demand is reasonable.

    2. Artemesia*

      I assumed this person was on salary having their personal time stolen for the personal use of the boss. If they are being paid overtime, I am thinking we would have heard that.

  25. OP #4*

    Thanks for all the useful comments. I suppose I should have mentioned that this is round 2 (0r 3, if you count the 1st round, a recorded video interview, as more than screening). Last round was a video conference, and they did give me the panelists’ names in advance (which was helpful, because it was made clearer who the hiring manager is). So it didn’t strike me as a big deal to ask for them this time around. I should also clarify that the assistant didn’t say she was prohibited from giving me the names; she indicated that she didn’t think they’d be useful because I didn’t know who they are (which isn’t necessarily true). Hence why I wasn’t sure if I should respond with my reasons for wanting the names, or whether it was a question I should have directed to the senior recruiter (with whom I’ve also corresponded).
    However, it’s a good point raised on treating assistants (and others) with respect. I realize how my question came off as dismissive of her, which wasn’t my intent. It’s a good lesson in being more precise in language. We’ve actually exchanged many emails over the past few months and she’s been a tremendous resource, so by no means do I think she would be ignorant of the interview process.
    To be honest, if she had responded and said she wasn’t allowed to give me the names, I would have been fine leaving it there. But that she didn’t see that there could be value in knowing the names (even if I didn’t know the people personally) made me wonder if I should have explained why I wanted to know. As for the whys – google/LinkedIn is the obvious one, but also publications, collaborations with other orgs, education/perspective, work history, and sensitive areas to avoid. I am expecting a few technical questions, but also a lot of content-type questions as well as querying my perspective on a number of topics/issues so don’t want to misstep with anyone there (no worries, I don’t plan to get personal with any questions, unless someone mentions their marathon times first!). Also, with 9 people, I find it easier to remember names if I’ve seen them written first. I was also curious about which departments would be represented because it says something about the scope of the position too. And then of course, in my field, there are less than six degrees of separation, so it’s sometimes helpful to know how you are connected to interviewers.
    I did email her back last week and say thanks for the info provided (which was helpful in its own right) and looking forward to meeting everyone. She actually emailed me today with the full schedule with names/titles/etc. I’m glad I got it because there were a few surprises there, including more higher-ups than I was expecting and from more departments than I was expecting (so I guess I’ll be going the black suit route instead of a dress/jacket combo).
    Also, my grad school made a connection for me with a fellow alum who works there and I’ll be chatting with her tomorrow, so I might see what extra information I’ll get that way. Thanks for all the advice!

  26. gringacarioca*

    #2 – If you have more credentials and work experience, then what are you worried about?

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